Monday, August 20, 2012

OK. I give up... least for now.

I'm taking a time out on the heels of the latest loony political pronouncement in a generally lackluster campaign year. This gem comes from whackjob Todd Akin of Missouri, the hands-down winner of the monthly Republican Dumb Comment sweepstakes. It is so dumb it could have come from Texas.

As the whole world knows by now, when asked whether women can become pregnant when they're raped,  Missouri's Republican Senate candidate reportedly said that pregnancy from rape is really rare. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,"  he explained.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the icing on the cake for me.

I have always wanted to leave town when election time rolled around, then get home just in time to vote and be done with it. Maybe I'll tune in here and there while I'm away, but for the most part, electioneering has become so vapid, so devoid of integrity and so intrusive that I'm doing what I've long wanted to do: I'm spending a month abroad to see how we're viewed from someplace far, far away.

To get into the spirit of my trip I booked British Airways to fly me across the Atlantic to England, where I'm reuniting with a former neighbor. Ron and Cathy Young and her husband lived across the street from me when I lived in Leicester, a decent-sized town in the Midlands. We cooked together, argued politics and on more than one occasion she had to step in and mediate when her husband and I got a little to wound up.  It took almost a year for me to realize his greatest pleasure in our discussions was baiting me.

For years I promised to visit. Year after year there was always something: my mother was dying; Molly was dying; I was broke from traveling back and forth to visit the both when I lived in Denver. There was always something. When I retired and move to Austin I got involved in writing the book. Then there was touring with the book. Still, they said, please come to England.

Once again I promised. I'm coming I said.  When they said they'd bought a house in a little town in France, I absolutely promised to visit. We'd hang out a bit in Wiltshire, in the beautiful, historically wonderful Cotswolds, then we'd take the Chunnel to France or fly from Bristol to La Rochelle, then drive to Antezant. This went on for a while and suddenly I heard nothing. Figuring they had tired of me and my empty promises and given up, I wrote a pleading email asking for one more chance.

No answer.

One day I learned why I hadn't heard: Ron had died suddenly and Cathy was alone in their Wiltshire dream house. I bought the ticket I should have bought months before. I called Susan Concordet, Molly's former roommate in Paris and said I would visit her too. Then I called the reporter to had lived with me when she had a fellowship to work a summer at the Dallas Morning News. We'd stayed in touch, but not seen one another in 20 years. I'm taking the Chunnel to visit her, her husband and two sons.

They will all poke fun at our political process and the pathetic performance of Congress over the last four years; they'll laugh and cringe at the presidential race, what with the Romney-Ryan ticket sounding increasingly like a bad parody of a real campaign. They'll ask me why no one is addressing economic issues and I won't even try to make sense of the forthcoming debates.

Just as we wished for a presidential White House like the one portrayed in Alan Sorkin's wonderful "West Wing," I'll tell them how much I wish we could have a political debate like the mock one in HBO's  wonderful series "The Newsroom." I'll listen to them excoriate the idiocy of political candidates like Todd Akin and hope that, if nothing else, Akin's comments will stir women up enough to storm the polls to vote against him and his ilk.

A bientot.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

How Much Crazier Can We Get?


Let me count the ways in which recent events have turned my brain to mush..

First we have a congressman who thinks it would have helped in that Aurora shooting if more patrons had had guns. Louie Gohmert, the Phi Beta Kappa candidate who thought more guns would be a good idea -- reminds me of a lost gopher, no insult to rodents intended). Then, in a runoff election we Texans got a nobody named Ted Cruz, a Tea Party candidate who will possibly become the other clueless senator from the Loon Star State. He reminds me of a snake -- no insult to reptiles intended. Moreover, if you can believe it,  he's worse than the guy he ran against who was, trust me, bad enough.

I'm drowning in a tidal wave of not-good news. Stop scratching your head over the Romney-Ryan ticket long enough to consider what's going to happen to our food if we are unfortunate enough to get saddled with these two come November. Both are superbig on deregulation.

So consider this, especially if you love corn: you're about meet genetically modified corn in a can. Or frozen. Or on the cob. If it isn't here already, it's en route to a grocery shelf of the nearest Wal-Mart. Sure, some stores have refused to carry this GMO stuff, but if you can't afford to shop at Whole Foods, or there's no Trader Joe's in your neighborhood (although if it helps, General Mills has promised not to incorporate the genetically engineered corn in its products) what do you do? And why should you care?

Well, as reported in a clear and concise article by freelance writer Diane Petryk Bloom, here's why: the corn is from Monsanto seeds, which produce a plant a pesticide that will kill insects that feed on the plant. It's coming to Wal-Mart from farms in the Midwest, Northwest, Southeast and Texas. Bloom is among the most recent writers to cry 'foul' over this fact.

Bloom goes on to say that in addition to the toxin consumed by those who eat this, there are serious farming issues as well. Just ask some of the small farmers who have complained in court when pollen from Monsanto's corn crops have cross-pollinated their heirloom corn. Monsanto has sued for theft, and they such deep corporate profits the little guy doesn't stand a chance. And those

Now that we are released from the 2012 Olympics, let's get to stuff that the right-wing nuts hoped we'd forgotten about in the two weeks since the torch was lit in London: and we fail to notice at our peril. Let's look first a California's Proposition 37 -- which would require all products containing GMOs be labeled as such. We'll know in November if the Golden State will set an important precedent in this country.And guess who doesn't want that to happen?

So you eat crap that has poison designed into its DNA. Sure it kills bugs. How can we know what it will do to humans down the line? A link between sterility in rodents has already been linked to GMOs.  Do you really want to find out what it might do to your children, especially if you want grandchildren? And hey, where is our great protector the FDA in all this? Anybody seen the FDA?

If we can't wait for the weather to cool down before we take to the streets, we can at least write or email our members in Congress. Even if we know the probable response; we can still worry the daylights out of them. We can write letters to editors and company executives. We know they don't read their own mail, but by God, unless their minions are complete cowards, they'll pass it on. They'll know we're out here mad as hell and not willing to take this nonsense anymore.

Oh, and for your information, we watchdogs stateside aren't the only ones who fear genetically engineered stuff -- Japan, Australia, Brazil, Russia. China and the European Union require the labeling California seeks. It's a sad, sad day when China is more concerned about food toxicity than the good old U.S of A. And one more thing: Monsanto isn't the only booger in this. The  creatively titled Council for Biotechnology Information  lists among its members BASF;  DuPont, Switzerland-based Syngenta and Dow AgroSciences (remember Dow, the wonderful people who brought us Agent Orange?).

And yes, as I read each new article and post each new clip on my overburdened Facebook page, I wish anew for the feisty Molly Ivins voice, although I'm inclined to believe that by now she, like so many of us, would be shaking her head in something midway between horror and despair. In one of her last columns she wondered how we became so mean, so senselessly violent, so apathetic,  so unwilling to care about one another, so resistant to hearing any opinion other than our own.

By now she would have to asked how many deaths will be enough for Congress to stand up and face down the insanity that allows automatic weapons into the hands of anyone -- let alone those eligible for white coats and institutionalization; how many travesties will we permit companies like Monsanto, Dow et al to perpetrate upon us?

Finally, because this is too much of a downer to continue much longer, one last thing: Remember when a symbol represented the person formerly known as Prince? Well, according to news out of Ottawa, Canada, via the Huffington Post, Canadian troops and police were trained for two years by the international security contractor formerly known as Blackwater. And in the best Blackwater tradition, it was done without the permission of the U.S. State Department. This revelation appears in U.S. federal court records, unsealed in North Carolina as part of a $7.5 million settlement of criminal charges against the company now called Academi LLC.

Yeah. So lest anyone of us still wonder who's really running the country look no further than Yertle the Turtle; Gohmert the gopher; the NRA; Monsanto, Blackwater/Academi LLC and all those fanatics lacking a sense of irony who call themselves pro-life but support capital punishment.

I'm taking off for a month, but I'll be back in time to vote. And I just might find something cheerier to write about while I'm away.

In my absence I'm counting on you to keep stirring it up.